The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Conservatives are sick puppies -- an update
Tom Smith

Jim Lindgren is much nicer than I would be, but then I probably suffer from all those nasty personality traits that we are said to suffer.  JIm delicately makes the point, that I should think was obvious, that in order to make generalizations about conservatives outside of your sample, your sample of them has to be representative.  The small number of future conservative kids in -- get this -- the nursery school for kids and staff at Berkeley, and a co-op nursery in the same place are, just a wild guess here, probably not representative of, let's see, more than half of the voting population of the United States, who were conservative enough to have supported the dreaded W. 

I'm just an unfrozen caveman who became a law professor, but I would think that to make generalizations about all conservatives in this brave land of ours, you should have, gosh, at least several hundred, maybe even a few thousand, little could-be future conservatives.  I would not want them all to be coming from a nursery school with a picture of Che on the wall, or the 92nd St Y in New York, or the all Bible Jesus God school in Snakebite, Arkansas either. For goodness sake, we're talking about  human nature here, or  at least something as grand as  human  psychology and its relation to politics.  But anyway, we all owe a debt of gratitude to  Professor Lindgren for staying calm long enough to politely dismantle the ridiculous claim that you can figure out the psychology of conservatism by studying a few much to be pitied children in the co-op nursery in Berkeley CA.  It's a wonder those kids are as sane as they are.  Maybe the lesson is, if your kid is a future conservative, don't send him to a place like that, or he is likely to feel persecuted for the rest of his life.  Maybe they should study future conservative kids in Utah, and see if they turned out so poorly.

HERE is Jim's earlier post, and it is gratifyingly hard hitting.

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Why would conservatives who grew up in Berkley seem defensive? I'm sure if I were a noted social scientist I could think of a reason....

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw | Mar 30, 2006 1:13:12 PM

The Berkeley study is silly, but for accuracy, a study actually would *not* need thousands of children. 200 children would be fine, I think ---*if* they were a random sample of the US population. That's the catch.

On the other hand, a sample of 20,000 children would be no better than a sample of 200 if it was a biased sample--- say, from university-town preschools across the nation. It would actually be worse than a biased sample of 200, because a biased sample of 20,000 will give very precise wrong results, whereas the biased sample of 200 might give more accurate results by accident.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Mar 30, 2006 2:30:17 PM